When poet and author Luis Rodríguez speaks to the diverse groups of students in our inner-city schools, he tells them, "Respect is the bridge to understanding" between themselves and the police, their parents, gang rivals, or people from different racial and ethnic communities. When it comes to living with immigrants among us, this is a lesson that we all must learn.
For the majority of Americans who have never left this country, the experience of pulling up roots, bidding farewell to friends and family—maybe forever—and placing oneself in the midst of an unknown culture is entirely foreign. It is helpful to remember the heroism inherent in the leap of faith these immigrants take; like Sarah and Abraham, they head off across the wilderness for an unknown country, in some cases with a repressive government or military breathing down their necks.
The volume of immigration has risen in recent years, though the rate relative to the U.S. base population is still far below past levels. Behind this new wave of immigration are many of the same causes that brought most of our ancestors to the United States—including flight from political, cultural, or religious persecution or war, as well as the search for prosperity. With global telecommunications and a world-spanning economy, it’s now possible for people around the world to be tempted by the American Dream, fueling the increase in migration.
The recent Los Angeles earthquake has shaken up the debate on immigration. California Gov. Pete Wilson’s proposals to restrict earthquake relief money to legal residents is only one in a series of anti-immigrant proposals that the governor—along with politicians in other states that receive large numbers of immigrants, such as Florida and New York—has offered.